20 Years Later: How 'Will & Grace' Helped Bring LGBTQ+ Culture Into The Mainstream

will and grace 20 year anniversary lgbtq culture june pride month

The trailblazing comedy series turns 20 this year!

To say that Will & Grace is a groundbreaking show would be an understatement. While the series was certainly a creative achievement in the world of television, it’s social impact is what has made it truly special. 

Will and Grace premiered in the Fall of 1998. While the official 20th anniversary of the show’s premiere will be on September 21, 2018, the June celebration of Gay Pride Month is the perfect time to celebrate this iconic series and it's role in helping to bring LGBTQ+ culture into the mainstream.

The original series aired from 1998 to 2006, and in 2017, it was brought back with the cast reprising their signature roles. 

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Back in 1997, only a year prior to the premiere of Will & Grace, comedian Ellen DeGeneres came out both publicly and as her character Ellen Morgan on her sitcom Ellen. While LGBTQ+ characters had been incorporated from time to time in television, Ellen was the real-life star and lead character of a major network comedy series.

The move received public backlash at the time, and although Ellen’s career took a hit until her resurgence with her talk show, she has gone on to become one of the most successful entertainers of all time. 

It’s important to give credit where credit is due, and without Ellen’s bravery to lead the way, Will & Grace might not have had a chance to make it to air. 

In a symbolic moment, Ellen even appeared in a guest star role as a quirky nun an episode of Will & Grace in 2001. 

The series Will & Grace focuses on the relationship between a single woman named Grace Adler and her gay male best friend named Will Truman. The supporting roles consist of Jack McFarland, a friend of Will’s who is also gay, and Karen Walker, the boozy millionaire assistant for Grace’s interior design company.

It stars Debra Messing, Eric McCormack, Sean Hayes, and Megan Mullally. 

What made Will & Grace so special was that it began to show the diversity in the LGBTQ+ community in primetime, network television. While Jack was the flamboyant, fun character that kept you on your toes, Will was an everyman — a regular guy who also just happens to be gay. He was your best friend, your neighbor, your lawyer. The show played to stereotypes while also playing against them. 

The ability to use great comedy as a way to help create social awareness, acceptance, and breakdown stereotypes was arguably the show’s best weapon against bigotry at the time.

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By the time Will & Grace's original run went off the air in 2006, support for gay rights had become stronger as well. Even former Vice President Joe Biden acknowledged the impact of Will & Grace in changing public opinion, including his own endorsement for same- marriage. 

The success of Will & Grace has certainly helped pave the way for even more diverse and inspiring representation of LGBTQ+ characters on major television shows in the years since. Captain Raymond Holt on Brooklyn Nine-Nine, Callie Torres on Grey's Anatomy, and Santana Lopez on Glee are just a few of the LGBTQ+ characters were are now seeing more of on television. 

While we still have many uphills to climb for LGBTQ+ rights, there's no denying the positive impact that Will & Grace has made towards a better, more-inclusive world. 

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Jill Zwarensteyn is a writer and Michigan native. When she's not writing, Jill enjoys Zumba class, travel, and referencing classic Seinfeld episodes.